Surviving Pre-med: When Work-Life Balance Matters Most
December 4, 2014
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Reflections from an LGBTQ Premedical Student

AMSA and national partner Kaplan have teamed up for a blog series featuring AMSA leadership from across the country. We are calling this series The Premed Experience, and each week AMSA’s On Call and Kaplan’s Med School Pulse will post new articles from AMSA leaders on their premedical experience and journey to medical school.

by Corey Hoch, LGBT Programming Coordinator- AMSA Gender & Sex Committee

When I heard about the opportunity to write a blog post for AMSA, I was excited for this wonderful opportunity. After the initial excitement wore off a bit, I was left thinking to myself, “What am I going to even write about?” As premedical students, it’s as though we are constantly being told what we should be doing, what we shouldn’t be doing, and it seems as though we are never doing enough. So instead of becoming just another one of those to-do lists, I wanted to make this more personal, a post with which maybe somebody else out there can relate.

 

The Dilemma

It’s a scary world out there, especially as a premedical student. Sometimes I get caught up second-guessing myself and pondering all the what-ifs. I become my own worst enemy.

Can I really do this?

Am I smart enough?

Would I even be a good physician?

It’s times like this when I reassess my goals and motivations because in the end, that is what is going to fuel my fire throughout this long process of becoming a doctor. Keeping focus on the whys will empower me through the what-ifs. My favorite quote also helps me stay encouraged: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

And…

It’s a scary world out there, especially being a LGBTQ premedical student. Not only do I stress and worry about if I’ll ever make it into medical school, but I also worry about the environment where I may end up.

What if I get into a medical school that doesn’t really support me?

What if my peers are not accepting of who I am?

What if the faculty and rotation sites do not want to help me or work with me?

It’s times like this when all I can do is tell myself not to worry about it. Worrying does not do anything to improve the situation anyway. I believe that things happen for a reason and I will end up at a school, at a rotation site, or in a residency where I am meant to be, where I can make a difference. It may not be the best environment, but if it is not, then I can work to improve it for those coming after me.

 

The Solution

I am a transgender male who is also a premedical student. There I said it. Feels good to get that off your chest right? Absolutely. Coming into full self-awareness and accepting who I am is going to make life easier for me and we all know that if there is anyway to make the premed track easier we would do it. “Yeah maybe, but now you could be subject to discrimination,” I suspect you might be saying and you are absolutely right. The dynamics of the situation have shifted however and now we can look at self-identity in a new light.

What medical school will view my identity as a strength?

What opportunities will present as a result of me being true to myself?

Can I find an environment that actually WANTS me as opposed to just ACCEPTING me?

There are many answers to these questions in actuality but none if we remain silent and closed up. I understand that coming out is not for everyone but if it is something that you are considering then I urge you to see all the benefits it could entail. It could open new doors for you leading to an environment where you may be able to thrive in addition to putting some ease into your psychological state. We have too much we worry about already as LGBTQ individuals like social situations and our own personal healthcare. Don’t let your professional education environments boggle you down as well.

“There are studies in psychology that show that when you are hiding and concealing a fundamental aspect of your identity, it takes a toll. It can affect academic performance both directly and indirectly.”

-Shane Snowdon, Ph.D., Changing Times for LGBT Population Affect Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals, AAMC Reporter February 2011

 

The Conclusion

The fact is that LGBTQ acceptance is lagging in medical education and healthcare, but efforts are currently being made to change this. There are many ways we can help support these efforts. By being comfortable and true with ourselves, we can not only help them but also help ourselves. You don’t need any extra burdens to deal with pursuing or during medical school. It’s time to let this one go and be free to yourself. We need to have a voice if we want change and they can’t hear us from the closet.

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